Some notes on the I93 action

By now I’m guessing most of my local readers and some of the others are aware of the I-93 shutdown action on Thursday, during which I was arrested. This isn’t so much an essay as a series of points – and the legal case is ongoing – but I wanted to get something up, especially since I’ve been lax about posting this week. To be very clear, I was acting as a medic and not a protester, I am not speaking here for anyone but myself, and if you want statements from the actual protesters you should read the press releases that they put out, which include comments from various individuals about their motives, as well as contact info through which you can get more information and comments.

– People including the Boston Police Commissioner are trying to claim that this action was a hijack of the Black Lives Matter movement (and also seem to think it’s a “gotcha” that some activists have been activists for other causes). But Black Lives Matter Boston publicly supported the action. The hijack claims are a bunch of divide-and-conquer crap. The action was about confronting racism and white supremacy in the protesters’ own communities, and using relative privilege to take action so that black people don’t have to be the ones doing it all the time, as explained in the press releases. Reporters should take those press releases into account before uncritically repeating the words of the BPD Commissioner and others pushing the “hijack” narrative.

– Relatedly, while it was deliberately a non-black protest, I’m very bothered by the characterization of it as a bunch of white people. As you can see if you read the press releases, the protesters included Asian-Americans, Latinos, and at least one indigenous person, as well as white people. There were actually a whole bunch of Asians (50% in my cell!); I’m not sure I’ve ever been to an action with that high a share of Asian folks before. Like these two Asian protesters with arms in slings (a point which I will come back to) in this photo! The erasure of the Asian protesters in the public discussion especially bothers me because dominant white culture uses the “model minority” framework to try to pit Asians against other people of color and stereotype them as being unsympathetic to other people of color. The Asian protesters’ presence made a powerful statement against all that.

– I originally had a couple of paragraphs here about the “But an ambulance was diverted” and “But you inconvenienced people” arguments, but despite what I said in the first paragraph, I was concerned that someone would lift quotes from here and claim that it’s what protesters are saying to defend themselves. So instead I will link you to this piece that someone else wrote as well as this list of the numerous trauma centers in Greater Boston and the South Shore that also explains the differences in the levels of trauma centers, and save the discussion of protests and inconvenienced bystanders for another, more general, post.

– If anyone is claiming that no protesters were injured, they are wrong. I have been told that the Massachusetts State Police claimed that to the press, and that is especially befuddling. Because, you see, they called EMS to the station where we were held and booked, for an injured protester (who went to the hospital upon release). They also had an officer come through while we were in the cells, asking people about injuries and writing them down, and I watched two of my cellmates tell that officer about their injuries, and that officer write them down on a sheet of paper. That officer also, on our request, brought ice packs for people with injuries who wanted ice. For what it’s worth, I am aware of four arrestees with injuries that were evident at that time, beyond the level of “minor handcuff injury or minor abrasion.” All were wrist/arm/elbow/shoulder injuries. Which is not surprising given that the police appeared in some cases to be trying to rip the lockboxes apart with their own hands or to pull them off by force. I saw a lot of rough manhandling – twisting and yanking limbs, putting people in painful positions, that sort of thing – going on, and heard an officer say “You’re breaking your own arm,” to a protester who was in pain and expressed worry that the officer’s manhandling was going to break her arm. There was one protester who was obviously hurt and in a lot of pain early on, and couldn’t get herself out of the lockbox, and kept reiterating this, and the police continued to treat her roughly. I was told that another officer threatened to cut off a protester’s hand.

– It is possible for police to remove protesters from lockboxes without injuring anyone. I know this because I’ve seen it done, in Tampa at the RNC protests in 2012.

– I got to do a lot of medicking while we were being held, despite no longer having my medic kit. I was in a police wagon with one of the injured people, in a cell with two other injured people, and in a pre-arraignment room with all of them. I assessed people for injuries, made slings and swathes out of sweaters, made heat packs for stiff muscles out of toe warmers, figured out who had injuries that would benefit from ice vs heat, explained things about aftercare and injury documentation. I gave the person making the phone call info about what medical supplies would be useful to have when we got out. After the people who needed slings were given real ones rather than makeshift ones, I made sure they were positioned properly and comfortably.

– In the pre-arraignment room at the courthouse – I don’t know what the technical term for this room is – one of the officers tried to take injured people’s slings and swathes away from them on the grounds that they were a security risk, and only the group of us loudly advocating for the injured people prevented it from happening.

– My medic kit got seized as “evidence.”

– There are some ridiculous reporters in the Boston area. I saw reporters literally chasing newly-released people through a courthouse parking lot asking them to comment on the claims that they were wearing adult diapers. I also saw reporters ask protesters what their motivations were, get pointed to the press release (which talks extensively about motivations and has individual comments), and say “That’s not useful for me.” One reporter, upon learning that I was there to provide first aid, asked me breathlessly if I’d had to revive anybody, while ignoring protesters in slings.

– People really need to stop complaining that the protesters don’t have demands. I could go into why this is a bad argument in general, but in this particular case, the press releases expressed solidarity with the Ferguson demands, which are, um, right at that link, no matter how many people mistakenly claim that the movement doesn’t have demands.

– I am not injured. I have a teeny bruise and even teenier abrasion on my wrist from one of the handcuffs. I had some tingling in my fingers at the time from nerve compression but it was gone in a couple of hours.

– Boston mayor Marty Walsh, who bills himself as a great progressive, has fired a city youth worker for her participation in the protest. Unfortunately, the article at that link quotes gross right-wing Boston rag the Boston Herald, but it was the first source I felt that wasn’t itself a gross right-wing rag.

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